I was talking to Andrew and Michael on the weekend and it turned out they are up for an expensive upgrade of the office file/print server and email server. And it got me thinking.

A lot of small businesses have these servers in their office, and they cost a bomb. But really, what do they do?

You can get email these days at no cost from Yahoo or Google. Why pay for email software, let alone an email server? Free is good, but even Google’s premium business email is only $50/yr. And calendaring is included.

A shared file server is now available at a fraction of the cost of what it used to be. Because we can use Amazon S3 to store the files, and Jungle Disk to make it easy to get at them. A 100 Gb shared file server might cost $20 to setup and $15-25/mth in storage and bandwidth costs.

You can print wirelessly. Even do backup wirelessly.

This all works for Mac, Windows and iPhones (wireless backup possibly only for Mac at this stage).

All in all, it seemed like a small office could run a lot of its expensive computing needs from the cloud. That is, from the Internet.

So I drew up this diagram to show how it would work. It is dead easy to setup. Don’t even need a technician.

Office In The Cloud

James and I will be testing this out more within OM4, and Michael and Andrew are going to try it as well.

Back in IBM days, the outsourcing teams used to budget lots of dollars to manage farms of file/print and email servers. If you can run a lot of your office in the cloud, you avoid a lot of cost. Hopefully in the not too distant future a lot of those servers will be redundant.

Some may be concerned that Amazon S3 or Google might go offline. Or the Internet might go offline. Possible. But its a matter of relative risk. Local servers can (and do) fail, and local backups don’t always take place. The office in the cloud concept can be backed up. And there are probably more significant risks in a business than Amazon or Google going offline.

Given how much money you can save, it will be interesting to see how long it takes to become popular.